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To end my first month of studying abroad in Japan with a bang, me and a friend headed over to Osaka on April 28th. Now, Osaka is big, and with less than a whole day to explore, we had to prioritize our destinations. For me and my friend, we want to shop for anime goods and less on sightseeing. I suppose one could argue that you can buy anime stuff anywhere, but now I get to brag about being in the same anime goods shop in 4 different prefectures. Anyways, our trip will consist of stopping by Umeda and then moving on to Nanba for Nipponbashi. For those who don’t know, Nipponbashi is well known for being the Kansai version of Akihabara.
9:44am at the Kyoto Station and ready to board our train to Osaka. It was quite crowded.
And I wasn’t joking when I said it was quite crowded. The video on the right is a 4 minute clip of the passing scenery. I always pick the window seat if available, although I’m pretty sure that we were standing the whole time on this trip.
Half an hour later, we arrived at the Umeda Station in Osaka! While ascending on some escalators, I took the photos below.
Facing North, the direction of Kyoto where we came from. There appears to be a Ferris Wheel between some buildings on the right?
Facing South. We will be heading towards this direction for Nanba Station later.
Like any large stations in Japan, the Umeda Station has a large amount of stores in it. While it would have been nice to wander around and see the station, we had a limited amount of time and must move on.
Right out of the station and straight onto a bridge. We were fiddling with some maps before making sure that this was the exit we wanted to head out of.
Still on the bridge and I took this picture facing the left side. Looks like there is a shopping district up ahead. In retrospect, we should have headed that way…
Instead, we followed the direction of the bridge and continued towards the right side of that street.
By the way, some interesting structures and greenery seemingly out of nowhere.
During my planning for this trip, I had marked down all the locations of all the stores that we wanted to visit onto a map. I’m quite confident in my navigational skills and my ability to read a map. However, for some odd reason, I could not find any of the stores that I had marked down for Umeda.
We explored random buildings. We walked through quiet underground malls. We strolled through multiple shopping arcades. And we found none of the places where I had marked them. The information couldn’t have been outdated as I got them from each store’s own website. With no further luck, we decided to head back towards the Umeda Station.
Oh hey, Ferris Wheel. I don’t remember if this thing was actually operating or not. I believe it was next to some theaters?
Arriving back at the station, we noticed that there was a Yodobashi Camera that was literally adjacent to the station. Yodobashi Camera is a giant store (usually over 6 or 7 floors) that sells anything from electronic devices to toys. Guess what we were interested in?
Before we crossed to the other side of the street to the superstore (which you can see above), a singer was performing live and we just had to stop and listen to her beautiful song. Despite the crappy audio on my camera, her beautiful voice still came through as amazing. Consider it a loss if you don’t watch the 6 minute video below, because I was certainly in bliss listening to her song.
When she finished and I stopped recording, my friend was a little reluctant to leave and truthfully, I would like to have stayed longer as well, but we had places to get to. At that time, we were too shy to walk up to her to read what she had out on display, so we never found out who she was until a year later. As I was writing this post, I spoke to my friend about this moment and as he put it, “Somehow, we’ve gotta find this girl”. We then decided to scour the internet for her info. By some measure of luck, I was able to to track her down. The singer goes by the name “Kado Jun”, and the song we heard was 天体観測 (Tentaikansoku).
Yodobashi Camera was where I had bought my HG Brave model kit. Rather than buying that though, I wish that I had bought a CD from Kado Jun instead. It was really a rare chance and I screwed it up. After Yodobashi Camera, we took a train to Nanba as planned. There were multiple routes with different prices. It took us a while to get everything sorted out. Not so cool being in a foreign place.
It was 1:40 pm by the time we arrived at Nanba Station. We were very hungry and so we ate at a Japanese McDonalds nearby. I had what you see above, Ebi Burger. Actually, I forgot what it was called exactly, but it had shrimp (ebi). The service at the Japanese McDonalds was surprising to say the least. The employees actually bring the food to you rather than screaming out your order number.
Just like what we did back at Umeda, I followed my map to the locations that I had marked down, hoping for the best. We soon came across a canal, and on my map, a canal. It was 2:15pm. We didn’t plan out at what time we will return to Kyoto, but we know that the day was already half way over.
Shortly after walking across the canal, we arrived at Mandarake, right where I had marked it down on my map. We spent quite a bit of time here browsing through aisles and aisles of cheap second-hand merchandise. I ended buying a lot of stuff, mainly stuff for friends, but I did buy Figma Kamen Rider Taiga and MG Destiny Gundam for myself. This was also the place where my friend bought his first scaled figure, the 1/8 Saigyouji Yuyuko by Griffon.
After spending a couple hours in Mandarake and coming out with bags of stuff, we found a vending machine nearby that sold extra big cans of Pepsi. It was pass 4:30pm by then, and you can bet that we were thirsty. We both bought a can and then sat on a stone bench drinking and passing time. We took a rather lengthy break before the cans of Pepsi were finished and then we continued to Nipponbashi down South. We have got approximately 40 minutes of distance to cover, so below are some random shots along the way.
Alright, it was almost 6pm and now we are getting close. From what you can see in the photo above, I took the shot looking left as I was waiting to cross the street, so that photo is actually the left side of where we were going. What we had planned was to start at a location that I now refer to as “That One Block”, and then make our way over to the place above.
So what is with “That One Block”? Well, it was just a regular street block. It had various stores like Yellow Submarine, which sold trading cards and other hobby stuff.
It also also Super Potato, a store dedicated to retro games. Of course, we are here at their Osaka branch, but you can read more about them and their Akihabara branch over at Culture Japan.
That block also had a building with Gamers on the 1st floor and Tora no Ana on the 2nd floor. Both are stores that I already have been to in Kyoto. At that time, Gamers was doing a kuji (lottery) for OreImouto goods. I didn’t participate as there wasn’t much prizes that I really wanted. On the left side, where a bunch of people were packed together was an entrance to…
…An entire hallway packed with gachapon machines. It took real restraint not to buy any. The photo was looking out back at the street, but if you turned around and walk down some stairs, you would see…
…Trading cards galore. The card sleeves looked especially nice. Ah, it is so great to see these items in person instead of just pictures online.
Afterwards, we walked into Gamers’s main store and Tora no Ana. This Tora no Ana was much smaller than the one in Kyoto, which had over 4 floors I think. There wasn’t anything that I seriously wanted, but I saw a book that I had planned to get at some point in Gamers. I thinking that I might as well pick it up here, but that was a mistake. I don’t regret the purchase, but rather, there was a ridiculously long line at checkout. I waited a bit and then started thinking since I already waited this long, I might as well buy the book.
You can see how dumb of a thought that was. 7:25pm. The lighted up billboards looked nice though.
If you think that we were done at that point, you are wrong. Because also in that block, there was…
…A Sofmap right next to us. Time to head in! The 5th floor was our objective, and it was like a heaven in there. Me and my friend bought more things. In fact, my friend had to borrow some Yen from me, since he had already spent all his cash with just enough left for travel fare. And me? Well, this is where I spent all of my cash with just enough left for travel fare as well. We stayed here until the store was closing and we had to leave.
Walking out of the store, I felt a bit chilly. It was around 8pm. Both of us held bags of merchandise. “That One Block” had took all of our money and time to the point where the stores were closing. Realizing that we had no money left and that the stores had to close, we had no choice but to return home. Heading for the Nanba station, we turned a corner, and before us were a cluster of closed stores that we haven’t been to yet.
(O_O) was the face we made. You remember the photo above where I said that we planned to make our way over there? Yeah, we were no where near that.
Um…where are we? It was quite a walk back to the station, and I started mistaking one place for another. But hey, we spotted a railway, so we just have to follow that and eventually we should reach a station, right?
As we got closer and closer to the station, the amount of people increased. That’s always a relief, to know that you are not stranded in the middle of nowhere. As we have found out, seeing the night life of a city is quite interesting too. The station was somewhere ahead in the photo above. It was utterly unrecognizable for a collection of reasons. It was 9:20pm by the way.
10pm, just arrived at Umeda and now making the transition to a train that can take us back to Kyoto. Despite the entire day of standing and walking, we could not get a seat. I could no longer stand so I just knelt down in a corner. People gave me looks as I talked to my friend in English while kneeling down in a train packed with people. Hmm…
We finally got back to our dorm in Kyoto at 12:30am! After arriving at the Kyoto station, we still had to take another train up into the mountains. After which, we had to walk for a little over a mile until we reached our dorm. So tired! Above is a photo of all the stuff I bought for myself. No, the stuff I bought for friends are not in the photo above. Yeah, I carried big bags and lots of them the whole time. Phew, what a day!
Quite a bit of things went wrong and the pacing for the day wasn’t the best, but it was enjoyable nevertheless. The Ebi Burger was nice, the video of Kado Jun’s live performance is like a treasure to me now, not to mention Mandarake and Sofmap were fantastic stores. After what happened in that one block, we knew that we will want to go back to Nipponmachi someday and continue our buying spree. We could have ordered anything and everything we wanted online, but there would be no exploration and fun in that. Plus, now I have all these stories to tell.